Geoff Neal Earns Split Decision Victory Over Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 269

Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio, UFC 269
Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio, UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

There were two key questions surrounding Geoff Neal vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio at UFC 269 on Saturday.

For one, would Ponzinibbio be able to build on the momentum a Fight of the Year candidate against Miguel Baeza last time out gave him? For another, would Neal’s recent distractions outside the octagon — the welterweight was arrested on DWI and weapons charged just weeks ago — prove to detract from his performance?

The answer to both questions, as it turned out, was no.

With both Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio promising a knockout at this week’s press conference, the excitement level was elevated for this one. Though no knockout would come in the end.

No touch of gloves to start round one, and you could cut the tension with a knife as we got underway. Mark Smith warned Ponzinibbio about his finger placement. Ponzinibbio took a shot to the cup and after 50 seconds of recovery, he was ready to continue. A back-and-forth first round with both men connecting strikes, leading to more of a feeling-it-out-process for round one.

Ponzinibbio pressured Neal early in the second round, landing his right hand and powerful inside low kicks. Ponzinibbio got the fight down to the ground with a takedown that was brief as Neal reversed the takedown to get the fight back to the feet. Neal looked to slow towards the end of the second round.

Geoff Neal’s corner was trying to fire him up to get something going as the fight looked to be really close going into the third. Even in the third round, Mark Smith continued to echo his warning to watch the fingers. Neal started to show more striking volume. Ponzinibbio and Neal went back and forth, opening up with the strikes. Late in the third, Neal began to land power shots. The fight went the distance and headed to a judges’ decision with Geoff Neal getting the split decision victory.

Official Result: Geoff Neal def. Santiago Ponzinibbio by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)